Christchurch Arts Centre

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Christchurch Arts Centre
CanterburyCollegeChemistry gobeirne.jpg
Old Chemistry building (1910)
Map of Christchurch Central City
Map of Christchurch Central City
Location within the Christchurch Central City
Former names Canterbury College
General information
Type various uses
Coordinates 43°31′53.33″S 172°37′41.64″E / 43.5314806°S 172.6282333°E / -43.5314806; 172.6282333
Inaugurated 1870s (first part of building)
Design and construction
Architect Benjamin Mountfort
Samuel Hurst Seager
Designated 15 February 1990
Reference no. 7301

The Christchurch Arts Centre was a hub for arts, crafts and entertainment in Christchurch, New Zealand. It is located in the neo-gothic former University of Canterbury buildings, the majority of which were designed by Benjamin Mountfort. It is listed as a Category I building (register number 7301) by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.[1] Following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the complex is closed, will require major repair work estimated at NZ$290m, will open again in stages, with the last buildings expected to reopen in 2019.

Heritage registration[edit]

All buildings of the Arts Centre, with the exception of the Student Union building, were registered as heritage buildings by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust on 15 February 1990 with registration number 7301 classified as A and B. With the change of the classification system, the buildings later became a Category I listing.[2][3]


The Centre includes speciality shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, galleries, theatres and cinemas. There is also a weekend market, and the Centre is the site of many festivals and special events.

The Court Theatre is a professional theatre company. It was founded in 1971 and has been at the Arts Centre since 1976.

The Twelve Local Heroes is a series of bronze busts located on Worcester Boulevard outside the Arts Centre to commemorate twelve local Christchurch people who were prominent in their respective fields in the latter part of the 20th century.


Arts Centre of Christchurch Incorporated was created in 1974, when the University completed its move to the new Ilam campus, and ownership of the site was transferred in 1978.

The Christchurch Arts Centre is governed by a trust board. Its membership is:[4]

  • John Simpson (chair)
  • Deane Simmonds (deputy chair)
  • Martin Hadley (secretary/treasurer)
  • Derek Anderson
  • Garry Jeffery (representing the New Zealand Historic Places Trust)
  • Ian Lochhead (representing the University of Canterbury)
  • Joanna Mackenzie (representing the Christchurch Civic Trust)
  • Deborah McCormick
  • Cindy Robinson
  • Denise Sheet (representing Ngāi Tahu)
  • Sue Wells (representing Christchurch City Council)

Proposed School of Music[edit]

It was proposed in 2009 to use the Arts Centre car park located off Hereford Street for a School of Music for the University of Canterbury. Strong debate emerged over the proposal. Proponents valued the additional vibrancy that this would bring into the Cultural Precinct, and supported the university moving back to their original site. Opponents felt that the proposed building was out of scale with the existing Arts Centre and that the building design would detract from the heritage value. There was also concern about the Christchurch City Council's funding role for a university facility.[5][6]

An organisation opposing the proposal, Save Our Arts Centre (SOAC) was formed, with Dame Ann Hercus acting as spokesperson.[6][7] Ultimately the proposal was abandoned.

The Great Hall (1882)
Entrance to the Great Hall
North Quadrangle (1877)

2010 earthquake damage[edit]

In the early hours of 4 September 2010, a major earthquake caused extensive damage throughout the region. The arts centre buildings suffered serious damage; collapsing chimneys damaged the great hall, the observatory and the clock tower. Arts Centre director Ken Franklin commented that prior measures taken to reinforce the buildings may have prevented additional damage.[8]

2011 earthquake damage[edit]

The Arts Centre was very badly damaged in the 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake. All historic buildings are inaccessible to the public and the entire complex was closed for the foreseeable future. Nobody died in the Arts Centre. There is a general commitment to rebuild and repair most buildings, with the possible exception of the Observatory Tower, which completely collapsed. This will take years and will most likely cost over NZ$100m.[9][10] The entire restoration project is now scheduled for completion in 2019, and the cost is estimated at NZ$290m.[11]


  1. ^ Lovell-Smith, Melanie (20 August 2001). "Arts Centre of Christchurch". Historic Places Trust. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  2. ^ "Arts Centre of Christchurch". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Cattell, John (1988). Historic Buildings of Canterbury and South Canterbury. Wellington: Government Printing Office Publishing. pp. 7, 19. ISBN 0-477-01329-5. 
  4. ^ Trust Board membership, accessed 29 Nov 2009[dead link]
  5. ^ University of Canterbury information on the music school proposal. Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  6. ^ a b Website opposing inappropriate development of the heritage area
  7. ^ Matthews, Philip (20 February 2010). "A return to the fray". Christchurch: The Press. pp. C2–3. 
  8. ^ VAN BEYNEN, MARTIN (5 September 2010). "Quake devastates Christchurch's heritage". The Press. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  9. ^ Gates, Charlie (15 March 2011). "Rebuilding Christchurch Arts Centre may take years, cost $100m". The Press. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  10. ^ "Terrible blow, but it will be rebuilt". The Press. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  11. ^ Dalley, Joelle (26 October 2012). "Arts Centre set to host summer market stalls". The Press. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 

External links[edit]